Even with its decision Monday to move its headquarters out of Los Angeles, Northrop Grumman Corp. will remain one of Southern California’s biggest private employers, with about 27,000 people on its payroll locally.
The aerospace giant’s major facilities here include robotic-aircraft units in Rancho Bernardo and Palmdale, a satellite division in Redondo Beach and a factory in El Segundo where major components of the F/A-18 fighter jet are built.
Northrop also operates a number of classified research and development centers for the government in various undisclosed locations.
“Although the company is moving some corporate staff from Los Angeles, the state of California remains a significant location for Northrop Grumman research, development and manufacturing,” the company said Monday.
The company’s reach is genuinely global. Northrop has operations all over the world, with 120,000 employees scattered across all 50 states and more than 25 countries.
It has interests in nearly every aspect of the nation’s military, from operating top-secret computer networks to assembling nuclear submarines in Newport News, Va.
Founded in 1939 in Hawthorne, Northrop Aircraft Inc. built its first aircraft, the N-3PB patrol bomber, for the Norwegian Air Force in 1940. Grumman Aeronautical Engineering Co. was formed in 1930 and based in Long Island, N.Y.
The two combined in 1994 while Northrop -- on the verge of collapsing with the end of the Cold War military buildup -- was on a buying spree. Northrop acquired more than a dozen companies in the years that followed, including Westinghouse Electric Corp.'s defense unit, Litton Industries and TRW Inc.
The company’s financial results have held up relatively well during the economic downturn. For the quarter ended Sept. 30, sales totaled $8.73 billion, a 4.1% increase from $8.38 billion in the year-earlier quarter. In 2008 the company reported $33.9 billion in revenue, a 6% increase.
Northrop, which has about 300 people in its Century City headquarters, said it was scouting sites in the Washington, D.C., area for a new corporate office. It plans to move to that office by summer 2011.
The announcement came after the close of regular trading, in which Northrop’s shares rose $1, or 1.8%, to $56.85. Shares were little changed in the after-hours market.
The move had long been anticipated by aerospace analysts, who noted that Northrop’s biggest client -- the U.S. government -- is based in Washington.
Still, the announcement was seen as a symbolic blow to the Southland economy, which already is suffering from an unemployment rate that exceeds the national average.
“Any time you lose a firm, especially headquarters, there’s not only a negative stigma but also a real negative economic impact,” said Chapman University economist Esmael Adibi.
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s office said Northrop’s decision to uproot its headquarters aligned with similar steps taken by other military contractors and would not harm the state’s economy.
“While the governor would like to see every company locate every employee in the state, we agree that Northrop Grumman’s 30,000 California employees and the state will be more strongly supported by moving this limited number of personnel closer to the company’s major customers,” Schwarzenegger spokeswoman Camille Anderson said.
Times staff writer Tiffany Hsu contributed to this report.